The first community projects to benefit from an £80 million Stormont fund to tackle deprivation have been announced - almost three years after the initiative was launched.
First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have revealed where the first £33 million of the Social Investment Fund (SIF) programme will be allocated.
It will be invested in 12 capital projects and 11 revenue projects, aimed at tackling poverty and deprivation through improved community based services and facilities.
Both Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness have faced criticism for the length of time it has taken to get the programme off the ground with claims the ministers could not agree on how the money should be divvied up between nationalist and unionist areas.
The fund is being delivered to nine ‘Social Investment Zones’ across Northern Ireland.
Each zone has a steering group with up to 14 members from the business, political, statutory and voluntary and community sectors. The groups developed plans which identified priority projects for each zone.
Making the announcement today, the First Minister said: “I welcome this £33 million investment in projects to deliver the Social Investment Fund programme.
“An enormous amount of work has been done by Steering Groups to identify projects that will address the issues affecting the communities that are most in need in each area.
“Today’s announcement of the first 23 projects confirms where almost half of the Social Investment Fund will be spent. We are determined to see all £80 million of this important fund allocated in the coming months.”
Mr McGuinness added: “Through the Steering Groups local people have identified and prioritised the areas of need to ensure the maximum impact of the overall £80 million Social Investment Fund.
“This is only the start and I am confident this funding will enable groups to deliver real benefits for people on the ground. The funding will result in jobs, training and improved facilities for many of the hardest hit areas of our community.”